“The strategic use of digital diplomacy in international activities,” with Shaun Riordan
12 April 2016
The first FOCIR Pensament working paper was presented at the 4th International FOCIR Breakfast with Shaun Riordan, expert in public diplomacy and international relations as well as senior collaborator at the Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael.
“Digital diplomacy is a tool and not an end in and of itself.” With this statement, Shaun Riordan began his talk at the 4th International FOCIR Breakfast that took place with the support of the Barcelona Provincial Council.
Shaun Riordan explained that for most governments, digital diplomacy boils down to social media and overall media presence, but this approach only works as part of a strategy that coincides with government goals. Riordan stressed that it is important to have a clear aims because digital diplomacy must encompass more than just social media. For example, the expert cited how deliberative processes can be created on online platforms where other actors – including civil society – may also participate and argued that their participation would be difficult if the process took place in a more traditional arena.
Riordan emphasized the importance of using digital tools and online platforms to carry out these nascent diplomatic strategies. It is a first step, he affirmed, towards being influential in this domain, especially for Catalonia, which cannot count on all of the tools associated with traditional diplomacy. Furthermore, the expert affirmed that “digital diplomacy is creating spaces where governments, think tanks and civil society can participate from new angles.”
With regards to Catalonia, the expert concluded that what is important is the content of this digital diplomacy, which implies thinking of what our nation can offer abroad. Therefore, an agenda with engaging content is needed, as well as it is to build a reputation and to become a international actor that specializes in a concrete issue. It is after this that the Catalan situation can be explained to the world. Riordan also argued that, when it comes to explaining this situation, civil society is always more credible than government. In this sense, it is clear that, indeed, “digital diplomacy is changing the way that diplomacy works and providing new opportunities. It is being used to create multilevel networks or coalitions, and it influences how crises are dealt with.” Lastly, the speaker argued that 21st century ambassadors have to be able to communicate effectively, network, be technically prepared, use social media with ease and have a cross-cutting agenda that allows them to collaborate with different kinds of players.